PIGNUT (Conopodium majus)
How to Identify Pignut(Edible)
Common namesPignut, hognut, kippernut, cipernut, arnut, jarnut, hawknut, earth chestnut, groundnut, and earthnut
Meaning of botanical name
Conopodium means cone like, with majus meaning larger or bigger
Known hazardsConfusion with other members of the Apiaceae family. It is in the same family as celery, parsnip, parsley, coriander and carrots, so people with allergies to these should avoid
Could be confused withOther Apiaceae family members, which includes deadly poisonous Hemlock and Hemlock Water Dropwort. Although feather-like, Pignut’s leaves are much finer and smaller and a single leaf stalk leading to the nut differs from the rosette-like growth of poisonous Apiaceae.
Food plant ofWild pigs and badgers
Range and distribution
Europe and North Africa
HabitatIn grassland or woodland on acid soils. It is not found in alkaline soils in the wild. The presence of pignut is an indicator of old established grassland.
The pignut can only be found from Spring to early Summer when its leaves and flowers can be seen above ground. Each pignut usually has one small fine feathery leaf appearing before its flower stalk is produced. The flower stalk produces a small white umbel of flowers.
To harvest, the delicate leaf/flower stalk must be carefully followed underground, where it terminates on the edible tuber.
Folklore, tall tales, and not so folklore
Mothers used to tell their children that eating pignuts would give them head lice. More likely, the head lice were caught when a group of children gathered close together to uncover the nuts
Eat the tuber cleaned, peeled and sliced as a foraging snack. If enough can be harvested, pignuts can be sprinkled through a salad for texture. They can also be added to stews for texture, and the flavour becomes a little sweeter
HerbalNo specific uses in modern herbalism, but historically was used for purifying blood, reducing the need to urinate, and to treat tumours.
Please see your doctor if you have any medical problems
MiscellaneousThis is a harvest that needs to be dug up, which may require permission from the land owner/manager
Tips and Observations
Look under trees with a good amount of well rotted leaf-litter. This looser earth will make it easier to dig out the nut